Linking Large Scale Genome Rearrangement to Chromatin Structure in Drosophila


Different species have different genome organization. Whether it be the karyotype or gene order, these differences are seen even with relatively close species like Human and Mouse. This is caused by the chromosomal rearrangement. Infererence of rearrangement scenarios that transform one present-day species into another can give insight into evolutionary states, the ancestral genome being one of the intermediates of the true scenario. The chromosomal rearrangements are violent biological events for the cell. Indeed, numerous mechanisms are present to stop the cell cycle when the genome sequence is altered. Moreover, rearrangements can be the source of aberrant phenotypes, which are probably unfavorable for the carrier. With all that, it seams reasonable to assume the rearrangement scenarios are parsimonious. However, it is accepted that this criterion alone is not sufficient to efficiently build the evolutionary history of the genomes. Indeed, for whatever model we choose, the number of scenario is exponential in the number of rearrangements. Another biological constraint is needed.

The spatial structure of the chromatin could be an essential missing criterion. It has been shown in vitro that when a double-stranded break of the DNA is non-homologously repaired, the strand used for repairing is close in space to the breakpoint. Our hypothesis is that the closer the breakpoints are in space, the more probable they are to participate in a rearrangement. This hold on genomics analysis of somatic cells, and between species. Let’s name that hypothesis the locality hypothesis. We proposed a method to use the structural information in order to prioritize the rearrangements scenarios. The Hi-C data were the structural information that allowed us to apply our method to scenarios between D. melanogaster and D. yakuba.

This results led us to ask whether the chromatin structure could evolve by itself. Then, it could be used as a phylogenetic mark. This idea is related to previous results showing the conservation of topological domains between species. This question seams to be new, and could open a new line of investigation. If the chromatin structure holds a phylogenetic signal, it becomes possible to ask ourselves about the mechanisms that occur during the selection, or if it is possible for the ancestral state to be inferred. Then, it could even be possible to compare the evolution of the sequence with the one of the chromatin structure. Thus, we defined a distance between genome structures, based on the comparison of contacts between orthologous loci. We applied this distance to a set of six species, including the Human, the Mouse and four Drosophila. This result confirms the presence of a phylogenetic signal in the spatial structure of the genomes. They also showed that we’re in need for efficient methods to compare contacts data between species.

Sylvain Pulicani
Sylvain Pulicani
PhD in Bioinformatics